Luuk de Jong and Memphis Depay scored in stoppage time to move Netherlands top of Group C as Ronald Koeman’s side came from behind to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Rotterdam.
The Oranje knew a win would lift them above both Germany and their opponents, yet they fell behind in the 75th minute when substitute Josh Magennis headed in Stuart Dallas’ cross completely against the run of play.
However, Depay levelled 10 minutes from time and De Jong, brought on shortly after his team fell behind, prodded in on the line in the first minute of stoppage time after his initial effort had looped into the air.
Depay rolled in Netherlands’ third – and his sixth of the campaign – to leave Northern Ireland with a huge task to claim a top-two finish with November fixtures against Germany and Ronald Koeman’s side still to come.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
HOLLAND (4-3-3): Cillessen; Dumfries (L De Jong 78), De Ligt, Van Dijk, Blind; Wijnaldum, De Roon (Van de Beek 66), F De Jong; Bergwijn, Depay, Babel (Malen 66).
Subs: Vermeer, Bizot, Veltman, Ake, Promes, Van Aanholt, De Vrij, Strootman, Berghuis.
Scorers: Depay 80, 90+4, L de Jong 90+2
N IRELAND (4-2-3-1): Peacock-Farrell; Smith, Cathcart, J Evans, Ferguson; C Evans (Flanagan 87), Davis; Dallas, McNair, Saville (Thompson 83); Lafferty (Van de Beek 66).
Subs: McGovern, Carson, McLaughlin, McGinn, Boyce, Kennedy, Whyte, Donnelly, Lavery. Scorer: Magennis 75
Booked: Peacock-Farrell, J Evans, Smith
Referee: Benoit Bastien (France)
A draw would still have been a fantastic result for Northern Ireland; one to match the World Cup qualifying draw away to Portugal in 2012 and their win over Ukraine at the finals of Euro 2016. However, substitute Luuk de Jong dealt them a sickening blow in the 92nd minute when he couldn’t convert a cross to the far post but scored at the second attempt with Peacock-Farrell helpless on the floor.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Northern Ireland and they conceded a third in the 94th minute when Depay raced through to steer a low shot into the far corner for his second of the night. Defeat means Northern Ireland only have a slight chance of qualification over their remaining games at home to the Dutch and away to Germany next month, although they could well have a chance to progress through a playoff.
Holland boss Ronaldo Koeman had described his opponents as ‘fighting machines’ and they certainly lived up that reputation.
The size of the task facing Northern Ireland was evident from the team sheet; one side with just three Premier League players against another in which every man is involved in European club competition this season.
Nothing underlined the mis-match better than the battle between Kyle Lafferty and Holland’s £142.5million centre-back pairing of Virgil van Dijk and De Ligt.